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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fireworks are beautiful, but dangerous

Growing up in Washington State, I loved the Fourth of July. My family would get started early in the morning. Mom would pack the cooler with food and drinks, and the family would head out for a day of skiing and swimming at the lake. It would end with an amazing fireworks show over the water. We would go home happy, sunburned, and tired from the day.

Fourth of July in Arizona was a very different celebration. I spent many a hot, sweaty night sitting in somebody’s backyard (preferably in a pool), watching the show the city put on. We certainly didn’t make a day out of it. If we weren’t in the pool, we would stay inside the cool air-conditioned house until the show began.

Occasionally, my husband and I would strap on headlamps, fill our camelbacks with ice water and hike up a mountain peak in the dark to catch the shows all around us. It was extraordinary… fireworks of every color exploding in all directions. I believe we counted seven different displays one year. But it certainly was hot and uncomfortable, even at 10 p.m.

These days, we are back to the pool or staying inside the house until show time. We then amble all the way to our driveway where we watch the Phoenix fireworks from lawn chairs and then head back inside as soon as it is over. I listen to the celebrations in my neighborhood and get nervous when I hear the crack, sizzle, and pop of consumer fireworks exploding down the street. The next morning I notice pieces of darkened grass or leaves. Last year, I found a rather large palm frond burnt around the edges.

Sure, for some, it isn’t Fourth of July without being able to light a fuse and seeing a firework shoot into the sky. However, I can’t help but think how easily an errant firework could start a fire in a place as dry and hot as Arizona.

Most fires are caused by people. They may be careless, don’t follow fire restrictions, intentionally set fires, or do so by accident. It only takes one spark to cause a fire. And fireworks certainly create sparks. If you  must set off fireworks this weekend, use them safely, dispose of them properly, and know the local fireworks ordinance.  For fireworks safety tips, visit

Many people like to camp over the holiday weekend. If you plan to head to the high country or somewhere else around the state, ask the campground about restrictions. Most national forests are in Stage II restrictions, which prohibit or limit the use of campfires and smoking, chainsaws, welding, explosives, internal combustion engines, fireworks and the discharging of firearms. To see all fire restrictions, visit

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.  

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